If you research ‘sensory bin ideas’, the use of food is often suggested – whether this is coloured rice, cereals or jelly. This can seem wasteful and indulgent when there are so many natural resources for us to use. Used in moderation, the different textures and colours that can be made with food provides an excellent resource for little hands.
Playing with food
Using food in play and learning doesn’t need to be wasteful. I wish there was more use of food to help children develop new tastes alongside peers. Most settings have a snack time and something as simple as a colour and shape game with food can become a learning opportunity and make things more interesting. I know time doesn’t always allow for such activities, but linking food to themed learning is a fantastic opportunity for sensory learning; if you are learning about a country, a specific food group or even colours – the use of a tasting plate of relevant foods* is an excellent hands-on resource. This doesn’t just have to revolve around tasting the food but using all of the senses – talking about texture, smell, how it looks and even what is sounds like when you bite into it, chop it or squish it.
The journey of food
The journey from plant to table is often a missed opportunity to wow children when we are using, eating or talking about different foods. How many children know where the chocolate they love so much comes from? Create a game where the children try to guess which food comes from which plant; this can be tailored to suit the age group of the children but some tricky ones would include cacao tree, rice plant and even potato plants.
Seeing is believing
Our experiences convey what we think something will taste like, whether this is linked to colour, taste or smell. We know that from birth, babies will prefer sweet tastes and as weaning takes place they will be suspicious of anything bitter or sour; it may take a few attempts before they fully appreciate the taste of the broccoli and from there, be reluctant to try anything green!
Children do not always make the association that the same food can be presented in different ways – the orange they refuse to try may become a different story if we show them it makes the lovely fresh juice they enjoy so much. Children will love squeezing oranges to make their own juice or mashing fruit into ice cream to make their own flavour. Have fun and be creative!
*Please gain parents’ permission before food tasting, in case of allergies.
About the author
Lisa Lane launched Sensory Scenes in 2014 with the aim to provide themed bags of fun for play, exploring and learning. With three boys of her own, she is passionate about children being able to manipulate, explore and use their imagination. Sensory Scenes’ themed bags are perfect for individual play, sensory tray play and themed subject planning.